French exchange students enjoy an evening of karaoke while visiting the local area last summer. Host families provide a welcome place for them to stay.

Education Homestay Programs (EHP), a nonprofit division of Education First (EF) is sponsoring 36 Chinese students ages 9-12 this summer to stay in the Brandon/Valrico/Lithia area. It is looking for host families who would be interested in housing these students from Thursday-Saturday, July 14-July 30. The programs offer daily language and culture lessons that are combined with fun afternoon activities, as well as some optional weekend excursions.
The students come with their own spending money and insurance. Host families provide a bed, meals and transportation. During evenings and weekends, each student spends quality time with their host family. This special time spent together leads to a better understanding and appreciation of each other’s culture.
The students will be traveling with two Chinese course leaders who will also need host homes so, a total of 38 host families are needed.
Devon Woodward, EF program coordinator, hosted an international student for the first time in 2010. “We hosted a 14-year-old French student (Yusef) for three weeks last summer. We had the most amazing time learning about his life in France and watching him learn about life in America. So much that we take for granted were things that he really got excited about,” said Woodward. “I never thought you could grow that close in a two or three week period, but you really do.”
Denise Graf, Osprey Observer graphics designer and parent of two young children, said, “Sharing our lives with Cynthia, our student from France, allowed our family to slow down and take time to appreciate all that we are fortunate enough to have in life here in America.”
This great opportunity benefits both sides – lifelong friendships being an added bonus. You may wonder what it is like for the student traveling so far from home to participate in this opportunity. Angelique Boccanfuso participated in last summer’s French student exchange and said, “This kind of exchange is really interesting. You go to another country and you learn their culture and their language by living with a great family for three weeks. This is a way to open up to the world.”
If you have a high school student, they can receive community service hours for hosting a student in your home.
For more information on EHP, visit  For more information on hosting for this local summer program, please call Woodward at (813) 833-9923 or e-mail her at

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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.